Why upcoming eclipse is such a rare event

Here’s why April 2024 eclipse has become such a big fuss across North America

FILE - The progression of a total solar eclipse is seen in a multiple exposure photograph taken in 5-minute intervals, with the moon passing in front of the sun above Siem Reap in northwestern Cambodia, 225 kilometers (140 miles) from Phnom Penh, on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 1995. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File) (Richard Vogel, AP1995)

Many around the country are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a total eclipse on April 8, with tourists booking travel plans to be in places that will be in the path of the eclipse’s totality.

Recommended Videos

But others might be looking at all the anticipation and wonder, what is the big deal? Aren’t there eclipses all the time?

Yes there are eclipses fairly frequently, whether they are solar eclipses of the sun or lunar eclipses of the moon.

However, what type of eclipse it will be and where the eclipse will be is what makes this a rare event.

Types of eclipses

There are two types of eclipses: A solar eclipse where the moon passes between the earth and sun and leaving a moving region of shadow on Earth, and a lunar eclipse, where the Earth passes between the sun and the moon and casts a shadow on the moon.

There are three kinds of solar eclipses. A total solar eclipse is when the moon completely covers the face of the sun, a partial solar eclipse is when the moon only covers part of the sun, while an annular eclipse is when the moon covers the sun’s center, leaving the outer edges visible to form a “ring of fire.”

A total lunar eclipse happens when the Earth comes between the sun and the moon and its shadow covers the moon, turning it red. A partial lunar eclipse is when the Earth moves between the sun and full moon, but they aren’t precisely aligned and leave part of the moon’s surface visible.

The one on April 8 will be a total solar eclipse that for a few minutes will cover up the sun and turn light into dark. On average, such an eclipse is visible on Earth every 18 months.

Location, location, location

So, if a total eclipse happens on Earth every 18 months, why is this such an anticipated event? Because most of the time, total eclipses can’t be seen because the path of totality is over bodies of water that cover 70% of the planet.

They often can’t be seen on land anywhere on Earth, let alone come to our neck of the woods, so to speak, like the one on April 8 is. The path of totality will stretch 115 miles wide all across various spots in North America.

It will be the first total solar eclipse to be visible in Canada since 1979, the first in Mexico since 1991 and the first in the United States since 2017.

The next time this type of eclipse will be visible in the contiguous United States will be Aug. 23, 2044. According to NASA, on average about 375 years can elapse between the appearance of total eclipses from the same place.

With all this in mind, it’s easier to understand why communities across North America are planning festivals or other celebrations in the days leading up to the eclipse, why schools and offices will likely stop what they’re doing in the early afternoon hours of April 8 to view history, and why people are buying up eclipse glasses in droves.

Yes, there will be other partial or total eclipses in the near future, solar or lunar. A list of the ones upcoming can be seen by clicking or tapping here. But there won’t be any for a while of this scope. Now you know why it’s such a big deal.

About the Author

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.

Recommended Videos